Two of the three passengers who were in a deadly hot air balloon crash in Caroline, Va., Friday night were University of Richmond women’s basketball staff members, according to the Henrico Citizen and additional sources. Police have found two bodies and the third one is missing, according to police.
Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis were the two Richmond staff members in the balloon, according to The Washington Post and additional sources.
Doyle, Westhampton College ’92, was a former Richmond basketball player and has been a Richmond coach since 1999. She has been the associate head coach since 2011.
Lewis, WC ’11, was the director of basketball operations for the women’s basketball team. She was a two-time Richmond swim team captain, according to Richmond Athletics.
President Edward Ayers said Doyle and Lewis were beloved community members.
“Their leadership and friendship will endure in the lives of so many,” Ayers said.
Corrine Geller, a Virginia police spokeswoman, said the balloon had caught fire after striking a powerline.
Pilot Dan Kirk, the third person on the balloon, took every possible measure to protect the passengers, but the balloon rapidly rose once it caught fire, Geller said.
“He had to act very rapidly before the gondola and the balloon actually separated,” Geller said. “Based on the witness accounts, he made every effort to do everything he could in his power to save his passengers’ lives and his own.”
Carrie Hager-Bradley told NBC12 she had been on her way home from the grocery store when she saw the balloon on fire.
“They were just screaming for anybody to help them. ‘Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help, I’m going to die – oh my God, I’m going to die,’” Hager-Bradley told NBC12.
Olivia Healy, a rising sophomore women’s basketball player tweeted “Praying for the Richmond wbb fam right now” Friday evening.
Richmond athletics postponed Richmond baseball team’s weekend series against St. Bonaventure.